Choosing the right hosting is crucial for the success of your business. Crawling site speed, website outages or cryptic errors are all signs of poor hosting. Customers will lose trust in your abilities very quickly. A bad web experience reflects on the quality of your products and services. The root for these issues can often be traced back to cheap hosting.
The good news is that you can prevent these problems. Finding a good hosting company is not difficult if you know what you’re looking for. After reading this guide, you should be able to make the right decision when you do your research.
What is hosting?
Hosting your website is putting files and images on a computer and allowing people to access them through the internet. A browser then requests those files and images and interprets the code. It then knits it all together and finally outputs everything on the screen.
The files for a website are saved on very specific computers called servers. When you buy a hosting package you're renting space on one of these machines. Whether your hosting is cheap or not, this principle is always the same.
The general options
The lowest tiers most companies offer start at a few dollars per month. People look at what they get and determine that one Gigabyte of space and a few hundred email accounts and are more than enough for what they need.
That’s usually true. Most websites consist of text files and images. The text doesn’t take a lot of space and even large images won’t use up space too quickly.
The problem is that those aren’t the features you should be looking at. Server space doesn’t matter as much as the server speed. But looking at the server specs will still not give you an idea of what you will get because of the way most hosts sell it.
If you see a hosting offer for $7 per month, it’s most likely shared hosting. Your server is chopped up into many different areas and your website gets one of those slots.
It's like putting four strangers in a small room and splitting the cost. It’s cheaper than renting a whole apartment by yourself but only works if everyone understands personal space and privacy.
The problems start if one of those renters has too many guests one evening. As more people arrive, they start spreading into the other areas as well. The space gets crowded and the visitors, as well as the other roommates, start to feel frustrated. Eventually, everyone leaves, vowing never to return.
Each renter is a website on a shared server. Not only do they share the space, but also the bandwidth. That means if one site on that server receives a lot of traffic, it will use the bandwidth from the other websites. That’s why websites on shared hosting are sometimes slow and fast at other times. It’s also the reason why some websites are suddenly unavailable without an apparent reason.
Let's say you get tired of all those renters and you decide to use up all the space yourself. In hosting terms, that’s a dedicated server. It’s your own machine that you can set up the way you want. You can have a lot more visitors without fearing an outage or worrying about your roommates.
It’s a great option but it also expensive. You have to pay for all the “empty space” that your host can’t rent out anymore.
If you're using WordPress as your CMS, you might want to look into managed hosting. Your provider locks down certain areas of your Word Press installation and removes your access to the core files and folders. In return, they optimize that area for you. It makes your site faster and more secure.
Every provider has their own proprietary way of accomplishing that. We have seen some compatibility issues but it's a good solution. Use it on simple WordPress websites without too many customizations.
When choosing this option, keep in mind that your host can’t unlock the files at any time. If you ever need access to your managed files, you will have to switch your plan.
It became quite popular in recent years to host your website on the cloud. The hardware is still the same but the revolution happened on the software level. It allows you to rent your server space and bandwidth on demand. It's like doubling the number of your apartment’s square feet for only the weekend.
This technology separates the physical server from the amount of space you can use. You can start with a small server and scale up and down as needed. There are no wrong configurations, lost files as you move to a different server. Instead, your server adapts magically and mostly without downtime.
Cloud computing is dominated by Amazon but other companies like Microsoft and Google are trying to get a piece of the action as well. Most companies focus on providing the infrastructure for enterprise-scale custom applications. Setting up server space for a regular website can prove to be a big technical challenge.
In recent years, the US company Endurance International Group (EIG) bought a lot of hosting services. The provider websites always appeared to stay the same but they made big changes in the background. EIG combined the infrastructure and support to save money and scale their operations.
A lot of customers reported issues with the exact areas EIG was changing. Slow loading speed and long support times became the norm. Among the most popular ones were HostGator and BlueHost but you can get a complete list here. I would recommend you stay away from any company on that list.
GoDaddy has changed over the years as well. They used to be a great provider many years ago. Today, the internet is filled with bad reviews all across the board. Articles about bad experiences with them keep popping up.We don't recommend them as a long-term solution. Stay with them if you already use them but look into changing server if you need to work on the server.
Also, be aware of any of the lists on the internet that compare hosts. Most of them are driven by who pays the most. You can get around $100 if you sign up a customer. Many resellers will recommend their hosting accordingly.
We use Cloudways for all our hosting solutions. They are a proxy company that lets you set up cloud hosting with all the big companies in the industry. If you are technically inclined, they might be a great solution. If you decide to go with them, it's important to know that they only provide the server space. You have to manage your domains separately.
As a small business, it's important to stay flexible and yet cost-efficient. Choosing the right host is a decision that will impact your business for many years to come. No matter which company you choose, please don’t pick the cheapest hosting option. It will cost you a lot of money in the long run and it might even ruin your reputation.